Monday, November 17, 2008

A mystery solved -- and more uncovered

I had long suspected that Dr. Lucy Hagenow, back-alley butcher of early 20th Century Chicago, was also Louise Hagenow, sometimes identified as a midwife. Both were held responsible for maternal deaths from criminal abortions.

This past weekend I went onto Westlaw and looked up Dr. Hagenow. I found the appeal of her conviction for the 1907 criminal abortion death of Annie Horvatich (who I had not previously known about). I verified that Lucy Hagenow was a doctor, also known as a midwife (as was common for female obstetricians), and that she operated as Louise Hagenow.

I also found out that she had another alias -- Dr. Ida Von Schultz -- and that she was responsible for two other abortion deaths I'd not known of: May Putnam in 1905, and Hannah Carlson, whose death clearly predated the trial for Annie's death, since Hagenow admitted complicity in Hannah's death on the witness stand. Leslie Reagan's "When Abortion Was a Crime" indicates that Hagenow was responsible for patient deaths in 1896, 1899, 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1926. I have all the years accounted for except 1896, so I'm guessing that this is the year Hannah died.

This makes Lucy the "Fast Eddie" of her day, linked to the deaths of:

  • 1896: Hannah Carlson (date yet unverfied)
  • 1899: Marie Hecht
  • 1905: May Putnam
  • 1906: Lola Madison
  • 1907: Annie Horvatich
  • 1925: Lottie Lowy, Nina H. Pierce, Jean Cohen, and Elizabeth Welter
  • 1926: Mary Moorehead

    Of course, we have to keep in mind that unlike Fast Eddie Allred, Dr. Hagenow didn't have access to blood transfusions, antibiotics, or other miracles of modern medicine which we take for granted -- and which leave Dr. Allred with very little excuse for his dead patients.

    Still, that leaves the mystery of how Dr. Hagenow was able to produce such carnage when she should have been behind bars.

    The gaps in deaths between 1899 and 1905 and between 1907 and 1925 might reflect periods of incarceration. If so, when Lucy was released she went to work at a fevered pace, perhaps to make up for revenues lost while she was locked up.

    I would be very grateful if anybody in Chicago would be willing to undertake some research to look into these mysteries.

    For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

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